The Key of Heaven - Sligo Poets

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Sligo Nationalist 13 September 1913

                 THE KEY OF HEAVEN.

In an old Franciscan cloister, far away in Germany,
Lay the Convent tailor dying; holy old lay-brother, he.
Holy Brother Bonaventure, he had laboured long and well.
On his bed, amid his brethren, lay he dying in his cell.
All the solemn prayers were uttered, all the sacred rites were given;
Spake the dying from his pillow, "Bring to me the Key of Heaven."
"Key of Heaven? --Call the Prior –" and the Prior quickly came,
Bringing to the sinking friar an old missal of that name.
Slow the dying head was shaken, "Key of Heaven?" Quick as thought,
Crucifix, and Rule, and Chaplet, to the monk, in turn, were brought.
All in vain – The brethren marvelled: What could be the key he craved ?
Surely such demand unusual was the plea of one who raved.
Last, uprose an aged friar, bowed obedience left and right,
From a nook beside the fire, brought a something small and bright:
Brought it to the bed, and placed it where they saw it thro their tears,
’Twas the needle of the tailor, wherewith he had wrought for years.
Ah ! to see the dim eyes brighten! Ah! to see the white lips smile!
Round the tool the chill hands tightened, broken words he spoke the while :
"Many years, old friend, we’ve laboured–ev’ry stitch I made with thee
Was for God s dear glory taken–for the blest eternity !
"Now, when life s last cords are riven, "blessed needle" soft he cries,
"Thou shalt be my Key of Heaven, thou shalt ope my Paradise!"
On the instant, fled the spirit. Smiling in his waxen rest,
Lay the Brother Bonaventure with the needle on his breast.
All the monks around him kneeling, (started at such swift release,)
Question with the deepest feeling, "Doth he truly rest in peace?"
"Brethren!" prays the weeping Prior, "May his end to all be given!
May the life-work of each friar, be, indeed, his Key to Heaven!"

This poem is unattributed  in the Sligo Nationalist but it is from A Tuscan Magdalen: and other legends and poems (c.1896) by Eleanor Cecilia Donnelly.

Eleanor Cecilia Donnelly (1838 – 1917) was a Catholic American poet, short story writer and biographer. She was born in Philadelphia. Her father died of typhus when she was still an infant and she was educated at home by her mother.

She began to write poetry at an early age and dur
ing her lifetime she published over thirty books, including two biographies, and produced hundreds of poems, including a number of collections of children's verse. Her poetry largely addresses Catholic and spiritual themes and she often composed poems to commemorate religious events and celebrations.

She also served terms as chief editor of the Augustinian magazine, Our Lady of Good Counsel, and as an associate editor of the Philadelphia Catholic weekly paper, The Catholic Standard and Times.

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